Under-dogs of Middle-earth

Author: Douglas Charles Rapier

Nominator: elanor_of_aquitania

2005 Award Category: Genres: Non-Fiction

Story Type: Non-Fiction  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: G  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: No matter how desperate or hopeless the prospect of success, people pull for the under-dog if the character is likeable and the struggle facing him is just, righteous or, at least, entertaining. Tolkien's legendarium is filled with characters against whom the deck is stacked:

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Reviewed by: elanor_of_aquitania  ✧  Score: 10

For me this is the best of Douglas Charles Rapier's nominated essays. He compellingly compares Tolkien's struggling (and at the beginning of their quest surely not very imposing) heros with the heros of the nordic sagas who were all doomed to meet with their own death, Tolkien's "gift of men" given by Illuvatar. For the nordic people life was a struggle but if "the struggle was bravely done" it merited to be "regarded as heroic". Additionally "the heroic individual was meant to exult in the essential effort of existence", to struggle on each day anew with joy and zest. I agree with Rapier this is what Tolkien's heroes do: they do not give up, they struggle on against all hopelessness. They serve their community without failure, they never give up. For me this is the most important feature of Tolkien's myths: never give up, struggle on, try to save your people, even if all seems lost never give up. And Tolkien rewards his heros in the end: with love, family, and secure living. Though naturally death nevertheless awaits them all at least at old age, they meet their death with equanimity. This is a hero's way of life. The typical greek or nordic hero dies young and in battle. The kingly hero relinquishes his life or kingship for the welfare of his people if in his old age he becomes a danger for his people. Douglas Charles Rapier has pointed at this "nordic myth" background of death unescapable and doomed but heroic virtue in Tolkien's myths in such an impressive way that I want to thank him for writing this essay.

Reviewed by: Rabidsamfan  ✧  Score: 3

This is another erudite essay, pulling in the traditions of Nordic and European folkore to examine Tolkien, but I think the title and summary are a bit misleading. (Which isn't to say I didn't enjoy reading it, it just started one place and ended somewhere else.)